Aussies plan $31 bil network

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Australia's government will build a AUS$43 billion ($31 billion) high-speed broadband network, leading a new private-public company, after rejecting bids by companies it said failed to offer value for the money.

In a surprise move, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Tuesday that the government would ask private companies to join the country's biggest infrastructure project to build a network that would be up to 100 times faster than the current one.

Australia has slower and more expensive Internet services than many other developed countries, raising concerns about competitiveness, but the project will be made more difficult by the country's vast distances and inhospitable terrain.

"It's time for us to bite the bullet on this," Rudd said. "The initiative announced today is a historic nation-building investment focused on Australia's long-term national interest."

The center-left government would sell its majority stake five years after the network, which requires parliamentary approval, is fully operational.

Rudd estimated building the network would take seven to eight years. (partialdiff)
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